March 20, 2017

After drawing rave reviews in Europe, where he proved himself “a first-class Mozart interpreter” (DrehPunktKultur, Austria) in concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic, Leif Ove Andsnes returns to the States for a pair of high-profile spring collaborations. With Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as their centerpiece, he and fellow pianist Marc-André Hamelin give recitals of music for two pianos in Seattle (April 24), San Francisco (April 25), Los Angeles (April 26), Chicago (April 30), and Washington, DC (May 1), crowned by a main-stage appearance at New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 28). The following week, the celebrated Norwegian pianist joins Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony for performances of Rachmaninoff’s jazz-inflected Fourth Piano Concerto (May 4–6); his 2010 recording of the work scored a five-star review in the UK’s Telegraph, and prompted the Guardian to marvel that “in this incendiary account,” the “passion burns from within.”

When comparing Andsnes’s recording of Haydn’s keyboard concertos with that of Marc-André Hamelin, Gramophone magazine was forced to conclude:

“Both bring different, valuable and irresistibly delicious attributes to Haydn’s music. So I’m left like a child having to choose between sweets or chocolate – and in this case, it’s hardly piggy to want both.”

Audiences will be spared this dilemma on the pianists’ upcoming tour, when they join forces for two-piano recitals of Mozart’s Larghetto and Allegro in E-flat, Debussy’s En blanc et noir, and Stravinsky’s Concerto for Two Pianos and The Rite of Spring. About this program, Andsnes explains:

“I first performed The Rite of Spring in 2009, also with Marc-André Hamelin. You really experience different aspects of it on two pianos. The rhythmic patterns become very precise, and the harmonies, which can sometimes be blurred in the larger orchestration, become so clear.

   “Mozart’s Larghetto and Allegro in E-flat major is a wonderful piece, but it’s unfinished. These days we have a few completions by different people to choose from. The one we are performing was completed by pianist Paul Badura-Skoda.

“Stravinsky’s Concerto for Two Pianos is rarely performed. It is a very good title because it really is concerto-like for both instruments. It’s a virtuoso piece – I’ve been studying it for months, and it’s like learning a big piano concerto. It’s full of colors and rhythmic excitement.

En blanc et noir (“In Black and White”) is one of Debussy’s last pieces. It was written during the First World War, and the second movement actually depicts a battle scene. It’s wonderfully elusive and enigmatic, full of light and shadows. The coloring and harmonic language is unbelievable – I have loved it for many years, and I’m happy to be able to do it on this tour.”

Next season sees the release of the Stravinsky two-piano album that Andsnes – whose discography has already won him six Gramophone Awards and BBC Music’s coveted 2015 “Recording of the Year” – is currently recording with Hamelin for the Hyperion label.

In concert, meanwhile, the Norwegian pianist continues to prove himself a member of “an elite circle of pianistic stardom” (New York Times). Besides showcasing his interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s Fourth, the upcoming Boston Symphony engagement also sees him make a special guest appearance with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, partnering principal members of the orchestra for Brahms’s Third Piano Quartet (May 7).

After reprising Rachmaninoff’s concerto with Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the Berlin Philharmonic (May 18–20), Andsnes looks forward to his second season as Founding Director of Norway’s Rosendal Chamber Music Festival. In its inaugural year, the summer festival sold out within just a few days of its announcement and received glowing reviews from both the Norwegian and international press. As The Arts Desk (UK) was moved to declare: “This is a utopian place for utopian musicians.

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Leif Ove Andsnes: spring engagements

April 24–May 1

Two-piano U.S. recital tour with Marc-André Hamelin, piano

MOZART: Larghetto and Allegro in E-flat

STRAVINSKY: Concerto for Two Pianos

DEBUSSY: En blanc et noir

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

    April 24: Seattle (Benaroya Hall)

April 25: San Francisco (Herbst Theatre)

April 26: Los Angeles (Wallis Annenberg Center)

April 28: New York (Carnegie Hall)

April 30: Chicago (Symphony Center)

May 1: Washington, D.C. (Strathmore)

May 4–6

Boston, MA

Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 4

May 7

Boston, MA

BRAHMS: Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60 (with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra)

May 18–20

Berlin, Germany

Berlin Philharmonic / Andrés Orozco-Estrada

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 4

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© 21C Media Group, March 2017